Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dani Does Disney- Day 3

Ouch. If anyone is wondering how long to make their family vacation at Disney, my advice would definitely be 2 days. Samantha must have had a meltdown every hour on the hour. Her limit had been reached. Allison was just tired, but was feeling her independence today. She did alot of rides alone, and was perfectly content in doing so. She found her comfort zone, as she always does, then has a blast. What also helped is having the kids Godfather, Rob, with us for the day. He drove up last night, stayed with us in our room, then we all hit the park together this morning. So there was a new person for the kids to go on rides with. Which meant I could sit down alot more- YEA!

I think my mood was hampered from an insomnia attack the night before. Which completely sucks when you have 4 others in the same room with you. I didn't want to turn on a light, so I couldn't read or write. No computer. Just the dark and my racing mind. Never a good combo. On top of it all was the teens in the next room screaming and yelling along with the ones down in the pool just under our window (God I sound OLD.... shoot me). I think the last time I looked at the clock it said 3:30am. Hell my HUSBAND went out and got me coffee in the morning, that is saying something.

As I said it was nice to have the kids distracted by the extra person. Sam was so tired she wanted to sit alot, so it worked out perfectly. Even Rob and Bret broke away to play for awhile. After that we had lunch, and I got my birthday cake and a song. The waitress also got a very good tip, yelling to the other patrons that I was celebrating my 21st birthday. Teeheeee....

By the end of the day, however, we knew we would not make it past dusk at the park. So, with promises of taking the kids to the pool, we left good old Disney for the last time.

We kept our promise and we all were able to relax in the hot tub for a bit. It even relaxed Sam for a bit. She made the comment that the water felt good on her legs. Poor thing, her legs were sore too. Once we got her ready for bed, she went comatose the moment her head hit the pillow.

So as I sit here now, Bret Bret packing up what he can while trying to remain quiet, I smile. He had such a good time with his girls (myself included). I just love watching him with them. Especially when he acts just as goofy as they do walking around the park, and on the rides. The kid in him cam to the surface briefly, the Bret I fell in love with. I knew he was still in there somewhere, and it was nice to see him again.

Yes, it was a good trip, yet it is also a good feeling to return home. That's how you know you've been away long enough, when you have that balance.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Dani Does Disney- Day 2

The kids were a bit more worn out today. Sam especially was grumpy, fighting us on every decision we made. She started to perk up a bit when we got on that first ride. I admit I was tired and grumpy too. I also knew I had to leave early, so I felt rushed all day so I could get to the hotel in time to change before my sister picked me up.

Now I am sitting here, in the second row on the set of "Real Time with Bill Maher". I tell you, I don't know how Jenn scored these tickets, but they are awesome! I am here with her, her boyfriend Omar, and his brother Tariq. Both are from Kuwait, so it has been interesting chatting with them. Especially Omar, he is in the Navy. I also found a group of people who have a worse Starbucks addiction than I do. :-)

Omar VERY against the whole Iraq fiasco, and we compared book titles and I certainly told him about my network. Tariq and I talked alot about racial profiling. Now, Tariq is 28, Arab, speaks it fluently, and is covered in tattoos. He deals with ALOT of profiling.

It was a good show. Martin Short was a guest. He talked to good old Jeff Gannon via satellite. His rant at the end about Repubs and Dems was excellent, I will have to find it and post it on my network. Honestly, though, the show would have been more enjoyable watching from home. Less camera stuff going on.

I suppose day 2 was only half a disney for me. But that was ok. I still had one more day to get through.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dani Does Disney- Day 1


This is state law in California apparently, to have these signs posted. I saw them everywhere. And on that note...

The best things to wake up to on your birthday are the sounds of your children yelling "Happy Birthday!!" and jumping in your bed.

Sex is also a good thing to wake up to on your birthday. Since we are all cooped up in a hotel room together, I accepted the first choice. ;-)

So, cards opened, gift opened (yea I got my IPOD!) everyone got ready for the more important thing at hand- Disney's California Adventure. Basically an addition to Disneyland, right across the way. My phone did ring and beep all day with people wanting to wish me well. You know, you never want to make a big deal out of your birthday, but always love it when someone remembers.

The moment we stepped off the shuttle from our hotel, and over the threshold, the faces of my children were stuck in permanent smiles. It was kind of like they had been injected by a drug. That drug was all the delightfully happy disney tunes being blasted from speakers all over the park. Hell even I started to feel good- it was a bit surreal.

The CA Adventure park features all the newer disney movies. The themes of the park were along those lines- Bugs Life, incredible, things like that. The kids were timid at first to go on anything. We left the first ride we tried without getting on. Then Sam saw a ride where they were flying through the air, and decided to try.

That is my girl. Ally went to a slow ride first, always careful at first until she has her bearings. But Sam (who is the younger one!)- no way! We will jump off that cliff, parachute optional.

After that, there was no stopping them. Sam just hit the 42' mark for alot of the rides, so she was able to do more than we thought she would be allowed to. What really surprised me was Allison. She is usually spooked pretty easily, yet she needed to go on the " Hollywood Tower Hotel" ride. It's based on the Twilight Zone episode. You see it from parts of the park looming in the distance. As you get closer, you look up to the sky, see windows open, then the people in the ride suddenly do a major drop, with screams of terror all the way down. My baby wanted to ride THAT?

I found out later that her friend at school told her to, and NOT to chicken out. HA- peer pressure at work. Allison couldn't return and say she failed. Sam and I sat and rested while Ally and Bret went on the ride. So I people watched. I like people watching, I make up stories about them in my head. Though people watching at a theme park gets old very quickly. Everyone has the same look. No one was frowning. Everyone was smiling, laughing, happy. Oy, you're saturated in it here.

Tomorrow we go to the other side. I am leaving them early to meet up with my sister. She got tickets to see a taping of "Real Time with Bill Maher". I'm VERY excited about this. I will need a bit of political rant to snap me out of the happy funk I am in!

I haven't had any moments to sit & contemplate turning another year older. Tonight, however, I am too brain dead to really do so. I may need to wait for my trip in May to find the time to worry about myself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Day One Finished

What a day. After a late start, 100 miles out of our way to visit a friend of Bret's (I'll get back to that), and 100 back down, we made it to our hotel. I got the kids ready for bed while Bret lugged everything up to our room. Of course, they are way too wound up to sleep, the poor things. They cannot wait to get started- Bret set the alarm for 8 but I imagine we will be woken up by two eager girls WAY before then! Bret looks like something out of a zombie movie. I did do a leg of the driving, but he did and will probably do most of it this trip.

I, of course, am ok. Just filling in my thoughts & will probably start my new book and listen to some music to calm me a bit before I go to sleep.

Back to our detour. Bret's childhood friend, Charlie, and his wife, Elana, live in Palmdale, CA. That is about 100 miles north of Anaheim. In December they brought not one but two beautiful preemies into the world. Bret has been watching their story unfold on their website, but that hasn't been nearly satisfying enough for him. Charlie grew up on Maui (not a bad place to grow up!), and Bret spent several summers there with him. One of those summers was while we were dating back in '86, so I've always known Charlie too. Although I never met him in person until after Bret and I were married.

So, when Bret asked if I minded going out of the way to see them, what was I going to say? LOL

these girls are 6 months now. When they were born they were 3 lbs, now up to 10. We met the red-headed Annaleise first. True to the old sayings about red-heads, she is quite the spitfire. She has a cry that screamed "If I knew how to walk I would be SO outta here!" Even with my best baby moves (both mine were overly fussy) she would never quite give in to me.

Parker, on the other hand, was sitting quietly chilling with her mom the whole time, looking at her sister and me as if to say, "You see what I have to put up with? She always hogged the womb too."

My girls absolutely loved the babies, but as soon as Anna started to scream they quickly disappeared to find the cats.

So we had dinner, caught up a bit, but it was over too soon. We needed to get to our hotel, and they needed to finish packing for a trip they were about to take. But you could see the joy on my husband's face. The man took pictures like they were his own children! The detour was definitely worth it.

The drive down was quiet, and we arrived to the nightly fireworks display at Disneyland. The kids thoroughly enjoyed watching from the highway (OK Mom too). What a welcome! And to think some get that treatment every night!

Now, in the course of my writing, the kids have settled, my husband has crashed, and I will go and read. Ponder a bit about my birthday tomorrow, which is (gratefully) shadowed by the seduction of Disney.

The Rest Stop

My girls are REALLY into the "Spy Kids" movies. So much so they pretend they are spies. At least that is what they tell me. I see the looks they give each other. Pretending to be spies is their cover.

We stop at a Rest Stop on the highway. They run ahead and make sure the bathroom is secure in order for Mom to use it. (I had to tell Allison that kicking the stall door in wasn't really necessary... and trying not to burst into laughter.)

Mom was secure and well guarded.

And the trip continues...

Hmm, are we going to Disneyland?

8am. I have my coffee. Peeked in on my network, checked my email.

The house is silent. Not even the KIDS awake yet- how strange. Figured they would have woken us up at daybreak to begin this adventure.

Feeling MUCH better today. Thank goodness, I would be the world's most horrible traveller if I stil felt like I did yesterday.

Was hoping to hear from a friend this morning, which is what prompted me on computer one last time.

Oh well. Life moves forward.

Mickey awaits!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Expecting a miracle

Every man expects some miracle - either from his mind or from his body or from someone else or from events.

~Paul Valéry

Is devotion to others a cover for the hungers and the needs of the self, of which one is ashamed? I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not virtue. It was a disguise.

~Anaïs Nin


The weekend has taken it's toll. The finale- a girlfriend who has recently been divorced calling me and using my ear for two hours. I had felt the oncomings of a headache all day. You know the feeling. You just feel... off. Like something is nagging at the back of your brain and you can't shake it. It came to fruition while on the phone, and by the end of the conversation I was happily chugging down a few aspirin, wishing I had taken them an hour earlier.

I hung up the phone, and wearily went upstairs to go to bed. My husband snipped at me about answering the phone in the first place once I saw it was her (caller ID- man's greatest invention), and about the fact that I didn't tell my mother I couldn't take her to the airport to drop off my aunt the next morning. I had a business breakfast, and had to drive quite far to get there, come back, pick up my aunt, go get my mother, go out to the airport, and all the way back to my mother's before getting back home.

The look I gave him shut him up in his tracks. By now my head was pounding a drum symphony in my temples, and I felt nauseous. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and crawled gingerly into bed, as any sudden movements or collapsing into bed would certainly have caused me more pain.

Not comfortable on my back. Not comfortable on my side. I tried to focus on my breathing, but as waves of nausea kept coming over me, I gave up and succumbed to the surreal ride I was going on. I think I passed in and out of sleep, because I had the strangest visions that could certainly not be called dreams at all. Incomprehensible. Had me questioning if I really took asprin at all, or maybe to check the date on the bottle.

Looking at the clock somewhere in one of my conscious states, I saw it was only 12:45am. I had gone upstairs at 11:30, certainly it seemed more time had passed! The headache was lowering to a dull ache, but I knew I would not be getting up at 5:30am to go to the breakfast. I switched my alarm, changed my husbands back to his normal time since he would not have to get up with the kids now in my place, and went downstairs for some water.

The next morning, I am up and the house is a buzz with kids getting ready for school and my aunt putting her last minute items together. No time to make coffee- an Starbucks is definitely in my immediate future. When I called my neighbor to tell her the kids were on their way over, I told her about my night briefly, she had said I didn't sound so good on the phone. I was still feeling somewhat nauseated, but my head certainly felt better. She said I should maybe see the doctor. I laughed, someone on-line last night said the same thing. Both my mother and my aunt said it sounded like the beginnings of a migraine. I've never had one before, but if what I felt last night was just the beginning... yuk!

So we gather our things, and my aunt and I leave for my mother's. She is chatting loudly all the way (well she is from Brooklyn). I'm having thoughts of duct tape and her mouth. She keeps asking why I'm so quiet? Oy...

So, we gather my mother (who is 10 miles in the opposite direction of the airport), and they are laughing and yukking it up while I travel BACK to my house. My aunt left her ticket and boarding pass on the kitchen counter. Of course. SIGH. That is another 6 miles out of the way. Then finally we get on the road to the airport. I'm wondering if asking my mother to take a cab home would be insensitive, even if I paid for it...

We say our goodbyes, tearful for the sisters. But I am going to see her again in a couple of weeks when I go to NY for my convention. My mother is chatting non-stop now about the past days with her sister, and seeing her granddaughters. I soften a bit. She doesn't drive, and always feels so isolated. My girls just adore her, and I saw that several times over the weekend. If Bret were in the car with me I would have told him that THIS was the reason I go out of my way. I know it's appreciated, even if it's never said. The joy in her voice and on her face was enough for me.

We get back to her place, and she hands me a card for my birthday, since I won't be around on Thursday. I smile, and she kisses me goodbye and wishes me good travels.

I drive off, and grab my cell phone.

"Hi Honey." my husband said (gotta love that caller ID!).

"Listen..." I said. "There is NO ONE in the car with me."

He chuckled. "Now go home and crash for a bit, since you had a rough night."

We said our goodbyes, and I got home. Got on the computer to write my thoughts out. I would like to crash- oh certainly I would.

But the next adventure awaits. And I must get packing.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Ghost Town

The road to Goldfield Mining town. It was an unexpectedly beautiful day, thanks to the rain we had most of the night. Big, puffy clouds in the sky, and the open road before us. On our way to a fun tourist trap, give my aunt the city girl a taste of the old west.

The girls have been there before, the last time we had relatives of mine visit. Seems the perfect place to take city folk! Here you can horseback ride, take train tours of the mines, and see "re-enactments' of gun battles. We just walked the small town. Lots of interesting SW art. Sam didn't really like the gun battle. Poor girl, just too loud. Ally asked me a couple times if the guys were really dead. I had to reassure her (at least until the end when they all got up) that there were no bullets in the guns, even with the sparks that came out. The reality of youth is astonishing.

The sole man with us, my endearing (enduring? LOL!) husband. What a trooper. We never have to worry about his relatives visiting, they are all here in Arizona!

It might have been the fresh, cooler air, but I enjoyed myself. Or maybe I just like a good gun battle now and then...

Kay Sage

Dorothea Tanning

Tragic Table

Life of Comfort vs. Life of Risk

What's the difference between a life of comfort and security and a life of risk and total insecurity?
One is just being like everyone else.
The other is a great thrill, and furthers something unknown and unlimited that's ever-present.
And that's what living the spiritual life is.

Andrew Cohen

Celebrating the Earth- a diatribe by a friend

It seems to me that the supposedly vast differences between certain
conservatives and certain liberals are really abstracts alluding to be

I, personally, think that most of "us" are very similar, with very
similar feelings and passions about our place in the world and the
Universe. I think we are "the stuff" of much more consonance than
dissonance. The soul and spirit of who we are, whether it's based in
religious or philosophical ideals, is very much the same. The
politicians use the polarity of ideological abstracts to separate us.
Divide and conquer. That way, they get their selfish agenda supported
and accomplished - and we get shite.

Most of us are not really "conservative" or "liberal." We're an amalgam
of both. We're not Red or Blue - we're a nice "Purple" - philosophically
and color-wise. We probably can't help it. But the general consensus
is that "Conservatives" (the actual "people," rather than the
politicians), try to hold on to the past. They don't like change.
Conservatives are happy when everyone looks and acts like them...
anything else makes them uncomfortable. This makes a certain amount of
sense. The world is a scary place. Like Star Trek's "Federation"
inhabitants, Liberals, on the other hand, embrace change and respect
diversity. It may take a serious effort, but truly progressive-thinking
people try to infuse other peoples good ideas into their philosophy and
reality, to expand the boundaries of their personal experiences and
recreate their environment.

This idea of being "Liberal" is not a dirty word... it's something I
aspire to. It's also very "Christian," although certain powers-that-be
would adamantly try to refute that. What they don't want you to know is
that, "Liberal" pertains to "Liberty."

I think we need to think of the differing but according inhabitants of
our soulful sceptred blue jewel as interconnected entities - because we
are. We are all responsible for the way we treat the planet, and the
planet returns, in full, our treatment of it. The ancient idea of the
Earth as our Mother is a wonderful way to create a paradigm for our
interaction with "her." It's too bad we act like ignorant, selfish

It's hard to refute that the physical nature of who we are comes from
dirt. The spiritual aspect of who we are may come from somewhere, or
some-"thing" else... but I like dirt. Everything grows from this Earth
- whether you believe it's "god's green," or otherwise. The air, the
sky, and everything that exists here, results from what was Earthbound
as the world evolved. This idea should give us a common bond of true
heritage, but most of the time, we're too shortsighted and selfish in
our identities... and most of us don't "dig" that far. But all of this
"Earthboundedness" should never stop us from reaching out as far as we
can. We are of Earth, born... but we are also children of the stars.

As much as we were birthed from what is of this world... the dirt that
created the world is the stuff of stars. This dirt has traversed the
Universe like heartened explorers to uncharted lands... and was created
from this stuff of dust and stars. Certain aspects of our Earth are a
result of transcendent astronomical intensity. Gold, for instance, is
only created in the heart of supernovae. It is a survivor of
inconceivable forces - forces we can only dream of. And we will only
survive if we dream responsibly of our Earthly environment.

We are indeed Star Creatures... and as much as we may be like gold from
the heart of the Universe, we create our world as we see it. So...
"see" a good Earth.

Have a consonant Earth Day... and treat Mom with respect.


Face Reality

You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality.
Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

Malcolm X

An Aunt Grows In Brooklyn

I have three aunts on my mother's side. One is non-existant. Alcoholic, in her 50's, doesn't have her life straight. Unfortunately though she lives in AZ, I never see her. I just don't need that negative energy around my children, around me.

There is also my favorite Aunt. I shouldn't play favorites, but I do. She is the youngest of the sisters, she was just 13 when I was born. She took care of me alot when my mother was working or just generally not around. I was flower-girl in her wedding, 25 years ago in 2006. She gave me her wedding dress to wear at my wedding. I can tell her the deepest, darkest parts of my soul and she would listen and still love me. Can't even do that with my very best friend. I call her surrogate Mom, but she is so much more than that to me.

My Aunt Deb is who is visiting. She is one of the two middle sisters, the other being my mother. So they of course have close kinship. She is so much like my mother it is, well...

Nutty. Neither of them drive, so I chauffeur them everywhere. Of course I join them, but feel quite the disconnect to them. They are people who cannot have silence. Always must be saying something, usually in joke form. I joked with them that I have two sets of daughters here now, four children. THEY LAUGH. I was more serious than anything else.

Don't get me wrong, I love my aunt and my mother. I believe it is my mother who is giving me more issue, as I have so much unresolved stuff there when it comes to her. I can only take her in very, very, very, small doses. Now I've seen her every day since Thursday- and still have three more days to go.

My kids are a nice buffer. My husband has noticed my tension, and has been wonderful. Deb stayed at my mother's last night. When I was leaving to take them home, he said the most beautiful thing he's ever said to me:

"If you need to, take as long as you want driving back home honey." Sigh, he knows I need my space.

So today we go off to an old Ghost town near the Superstition mountains. City girl that I am, I love this place, and the kids enjoy it too. I know I will enjoy it, as I have my buffers with me. Heeheeee...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Came across an interesting poet

I Am a Fascist
--Rick Klaus Theis

I thought I was a liberal, once a communist even,
Sometimes a Taoist or a Buddhist, often an existentialist,
But now I must admit that I am a fascist--
Part of a group which I profess to hate.
And I am a conservative, a Christian fundamentalist, a neo-Nazi
A Stalinist, a Muslim terrorist and an agent of the CIA.
I am all the wicked things that I do not fight against.
And I am all of the evils I have not defeated yet--
Those defects in myself, in others, in my society and in every other.
I am all men and so I am fully implicated in all men's crimes.
I have failed, first, to perfect myself. I have failed, second,
To push all other beings in a positive direction
Through education, legislation, demonstration and/or revolution.
Society's failures are my own and,
As a result of my not having cured its ills,
I am fated to be re-infected by it at best
Or completely reformulated by it at worst.
I am a criminal for just existing when I know that
Any crime is being committed anywhere
(Not crimes against law, but real crimes AGAINST life).
I am a collaborator when I am not resisting
With the full weight of my mind, body and soul.
I must fight with every breath I breathe,
Using every precious second of time
During which I have been graced to live,
Utilizing every skill, and contributing every energy I have
To push society toward the truth
As I know it, feel it, and believe it.
Otherwise, my life is just another lie
Added to this growing pile of filth.

Talk is so much more comfortable than bleeding,
So give me the fascist salute as I saunter by
On my way to the next poetry reading
Past the ghettos and the beggars, the ignorant,
The hungry, the violent, the misguided, the perpetrators,
The anti-democratic, the fooled and fucked,
The abused, the living dead, the human waste,
The mortal cogs and angelic slugs.
For I am the best reflection of this world
And it is the truest reflection of me--UGLY.
I am fascist. I am bankrupt. I am guilty.
Please hunt me down and kill me--

Some music is timeless

Remember When The Music
~Harry Chapin

Remember when the music came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire,
And as we sang the words it would set our minds on fire,
or we believed in things and so we'd sing,

Remember when the music, Brought us all together to stand inside the rain,
And as we joined our hands we'd meet in the refrain,
For we had dreams to live, and we had hopes to give.

Don't you remember when the music,
Was the best of what we dreamed of for our children's time?
And as we sang we worked for we knew time was just a line,
A gift we saved, a gift the future gave,

Oh, all the times I listened and all the times I heard.
All the melodies I'm missing and all the magic words.
And all the potent voices and the choices we had then.
How I'd love to find we had that kind of choice again.

Remember when the music,
Was a glow on the horizon of every newborn day.
And as we sang the sun came up to chase the dark away,
And life was good, for we knew we could.

Remember when the music,
Brought the night across the valley as the day went down,
And as we'd hum the melody we'd be safe inside the sound,
And so we'd sleep, for we had dreams to keep.

And I remember when the music,
Came from wooden boxes strung with silver wire,
And as we sang the words it would set our minds on fire,
For we believed in things, and so we'd sing, and so we'd sing

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Thank you Mr. Lincoln

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us' but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.'"

~ Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lonely as a Cloud

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud"

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

21st Century Challenge

The challenge for the 21 century is
the Silent Revolution of the Heart.
It is not a revolution within an organization
or a land in the traditional sense
with violence, madness and blood shed.

It is a revolution in human consciousness.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Democracy starts at home

The technical fact that we are not a democracy aside, you need to practice it before you can preach it, eh?

Democracy Starts At Home

by Joseph E. Stiglitz

April 06, 2005

When all is said and done, George Kennan was right: Americas most powerful tool in international affairs is our example. Highlighting the hypocrisy of a leader who promotes democracy abroad while weakening it at home, Joe Stiglitz describes our domestic democracy deficit in detail.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is professor of economics at Columbia University and was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Clinton and chief economist and senior vice president at the World Bank. His most recent book is The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade.

The Bush administration has put expansion of democracy at the center of its foreign policy. This is a far nobler calling than simply expanding American hegemony. The question is, does Bush really mean it, and does he genuinely understand what democracy means?

The Bush administration praised Saudi Arabias municipal elections, but what about the rights of women including their voting rights? It welcomed (if it did not actively participate in) the toppling of Venezuelas democratically elected leader, but it continues to support Pakistans military dictator. It criticizes Russian President Vladimir Putin, but only after he goes against business interests. And it may raise concerns about media concentration in Russia, but remains silent about media concentration in Italy.

There is a taint of hypocrisy in a more fundamental sense. The Bush administration is right to emphasize the importance of elections, without which democracy is inconceivable. But democracy entails more than periodic elections, and the legitimacy of elections depends on the publics confidence in the electoral process itself. In this respect, the last two American presidential elections have hardly been models for the world.

Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta center monitors elections around the globe, has raised questions about whether Americas recent election lives up to the standards the United States should uphold. Where former President Bill Clinton sought to ensure that all Americans who are entitled to vote are registered to vote, the Republicans have tried to reverse these advances, putting obstacles in the way both of registration and voting. Modern technology makes it easy to have a paper trail for voting machines at little cost; yet several states using electronic voting machines chose not to provide this minimal safeguard.

Beyond elections, citizens can provide an effective check on government only if they are well informed. That is why right-to-know laws are so important. Of course, politicians prefer to work in secrecy, without oversight. No one can imagine hiring a worker, but allowing him not to inform his employer about what he is doing on the job. Politicians work for the citizenry which has the right to know what their employees are doing.

Citizens also have the right to know how their money is being spent, and who is being consulted to form policy. They have the right to know whether Enron and the oil companies are shaping energy policy. They have the right to know why America, and the world, was misled by false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

My research has focused on the consequences of asymmetries in information for the functioning of the economy. But a lack of accurate information has equally, if not more, severe consequences for political processes.

The decision to go to war in Iraq is the most dramatic example of this, but there have been many others in America under Bush. Providing drug benefits under Medicare, Americas health-care program for the aged, may have been the right decision. But restricting governments ability to bargain with the drug companies was a pure giveaway, and nothing justifies providing grossly distorted information about the costs now estimated to be in excess of 1.1 trillion over the next decade. This is three times the amount original projected by the Bush administration.

Today, the Bush administration is engaged in a disinformation campaign about an impending social security crisis. While something should be done, the magnitude of the problem hardly foreshadows a crisis. On the contrary, the system could almost surely be put on a solid footing for the next 75 years with a fraction of what was spent on the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

Good information requires not just the right to know, but also the right to tell a diversified media. There are, as we noted, justified complaints about the lack of diversity in television broadcasting in Russia, yet Bush has not opposed efforts by Americas Federal Communications Commission to weaken laws on media concentration.

Democracy also requires recognizing the rights of individuals. Undermining any individuals rights jeopardizes everyones rights. Yet under Bush, the United States has undermined basic civil rights, such as habeas corpus , which guarantees individuals recourse to judicial review when the state detains them. The extended detention of dozens of individuals in Guantnamo without charge and without trialis a basic abrogation of this right. Fortunately, even if Bush does not understand such basic principles, Americas courts do. They are now, albeit belatedly, forcing his administration to abide by them.

Finally, of what value is the right to vote without recognition of the right to a certain minimal standard of living, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? In countries where much of the population lives below subsistence level, buying votes is all too easy. But the only economic rights the Bush administration recognizes are intellectual property rights, putting the interests of drug companies ahead of those with life threatening diseases, and the free mobility of capital, which has had such devastating effects on many countries.

Americas democracy remains the envy of much of the world, and it is good that the Bush administration now champions the expansion of democracy forcefully. But the administration would be far more credibleand have far more successif it took a closer look at home, if it examined its own practices more honestly, and if it engaged in a broader discussion of what democracy really means.

Copyright Project Syndicate, 2005

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Natural Highs.. ponderings

I got this in an email, along with the standard "send this to 37 people in 37 minutes or you will have 37 horrible things happen to you!".

But that aside, I had to grin and sigh at a few of these. I love to have someone play with my hair... :-)

1. Falling in love.

2. Laughing so hard your face hurts.

3. A hot shower.

4. No lines at the supermarket

5. A special glance.

6. Getting mail

7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.

8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.

9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.

10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.

11. Chocolate milkshake. (or vanilla or strawberry!)

12. A bubble bath.

13. Giggling.

14. A good conversation.

15. The beach

16. Finding a 20 dollar bill in your coat from last winter.

17. Laughing at yourself.

19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.

20. Running through sprinklers.

21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.

22. Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.

23. Laughing at an inside joke.

24. Friends.

25. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.

26. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.

27. Your first kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).

28. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.

29. Playing with a new puppy.

30. Having someone play with your hair.

31. Sweet dreams.

32. Hot chocolate.

33. Road trips with friends.

34. Swinging on swings.

35. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.

36. Making chocolate chip cookies.

37. Having your friends send you homemade cookies.

38. Holding hands with someone you care about.

39. Running into an old friend and realizing
that some things (good or bad) never change.

40. Watching the _expression on someone's face
as they open a much desired present from you.

41. Watching the sunrise.

42. Getting out of bed every morning and
being grateful for another beautiful day.

43. Knowing that somebody misses you.

44. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.

45. Knowing you've done the right thing,
no matter what other people think.

What a poet laureate writes

After Years

Today, from a distance,
I saw you walking away,
and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea.
An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands,
holding only a handful of leaves,
and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens
looked up for an instant.
At the other side of the galaxy,
a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun
exploded and vanished,
leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

Ted Kooser

Monday, April 04, 2005

Monday Morning Silliness

Answers given by elementary school age children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house.
3. To help us out of there when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the
world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3. They say she used to be nice.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else with him.
3. My grandma says that mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goofball.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms work at work & work at home, & dads just go to work at work.
2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's.
4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Kaizen Way

A Journey of 100 Miles Begins with a Single Step: The Kaizen Way

By Mike Marchev

I can’t remember being this excited about sharing my thoughts on any one particular topic in a long time! I stumbled on an old concept whose time had come and gone in my life, and I am better for it. But it might as well be new news as it has taken over my thinking once again.

If you’re ready, I have some very interesting information for you. Your life could be on the verge of changing for the better. Fast. Easy. And soon.

It all started at my kitchen table like so many ideas do… while reading the morning paper. My wife showed me a book review of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, written by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. The review impressed me enough to go out and pick up my own copy at Barnes & Noble. (You can thank me later, Barnes & Noble.)

On page 21, I read this:

“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”
Since I often remind seminar attendees that Olympic Gold is usually won by 1000ths of a second, or by less than a single point, the concept of taking small steps to achieve goals was not new to me.

The Japanese might have given it its name (Kaizen) but what it involves is simply “continuous improvement.” Taking small steps toward a desired goal is the key. But believe me, this goes against the grain for the majority of people seeking any significant level of change. Grandiose action plans frequently bite the dust in less than two weeks, returning the practitioner to more familiar and gentler ways.

All one really needs to do is identify little things and make small improvements to each one. It is a beautiful, non-intimidating mindset. And it works. Because it is easy.

But where can Kaizen behavior help you? Let’s see…

When you want to clean the attic, the garage, the closet or the trunk of your car, just the thought of the task probably gives you a little stomach acid. As a result, these cleaning chores are postponed indefinitely.

But this behavior can be yesterday’s news if you subscribe to the Kaizen approach. Stop worrying about cleaning anything. All you have to do is pick up one book that is lying on the floor and put it back in its place. The next time you pass the closet, pick up or rearrange one garment. When in the garage, put a screwdriver back in its holster. Take small, non-intimidating steps. You will soon be amazed with your progress!

Since I read Dr. Maurer’s book, I find myself eyeballing a zillion items that, yesterday, would have gone unnoticed and worse, untouched. I figured if I wasn’t going to complete the task in one sitting, I would wait until I could find the time to do so. This has proven over time to a wasteful decision. (Kaizen goes against the popular teaching to finish what you start. With Kaizen, you eventually do complete the task, but not instantaneously.)

I now put one coffee cup away. Pick up one magazine. Pick up and throw away one item from the trunk of my car.

Kaizen works the same way when it comes to eating healthy. You don’t have to give up French fries “cold turkey” once you endorse the Kaizen philosophy. If you try, your brain will fight you and you will lose every time.

Here is what I want you to do. Order the fries. Then before you begin eating, throw one of them away. Just one. Then eat the rest of those tasty little devils. The next time you have a French fry “jones,” throw two fries away before polishing off the bag. Within the year, you will be French-fry-free. Get the idea? Little steps. Big difference. Great results.

But what about exercise? Same thing. You are not about to jog for 60 minutes on the treadmill when you’re coming off the couch in your new exercise program. On the first day, I want you to stand on the treadmill for one minute. Day two, stand for two minutes. Day three, stand for 60 seconds and walk for 60 seconds. This, as you can agree is non-intimidating no matter who you are. Day-by-day, step-by-step, you will soon be working up a sweat while enjoying the process.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t work. My wife and I are doing this exact thing after walking past the workout room in our home for nearly six months. Now, we stop for a minute or two (we are well above that now) and ride the bike or jog a bit without hesitation or remorse.

How does Kaizen behavior translate to business activities? Write one sentence for that hard-to-write sales letter. Send one postcard to a client or prospect (each day). Make one phone call to past customer. But not all at once.

The first day, just locate the piece of writing paper. Period. The next day, affix a stamp to the envelope. The third day, confirm the proper spelling and address of the recipient. Take little steps at first to overcome procrastination and any other excuse you may be relying on.

The concept is incredibly effective. By taking many little steps your efficiency and productivity will sky rocket. Your natural tendency to procrastinate will be deflected and you will feel much better about yourself.

Repeat after me: “KAIZEN.” (Pronounced Ky-zin.)